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GIBRALTAR: An Introduction

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Country focus 

Gibraltar, located at the southern-most tip of Europe, offers many advantages for entrepreneurs, as well as for international companies looking to take advantage of the full range of solutions available in Gibraltar as a modern financial services and gaming jurisdiction.

The Economy 

Gibraltar’s economy is powered by a diverse range of activities, which widely fall into one of four categories – tourism, financial services, online gaming and the port. Gibraltar attracts millions of tourists by land, sea and air every year.

Gibraltar offers world-leading facilities to the financial services sector, a speed to market unmatched anywhere else and the range of solutions that meets the needs of both today’s entrepreneurs and established businesses. Having offered a financial services passport into the EU (mostly the UK) since its accession to the EU on 1 January 1973, Gibraltar is set to continue to offer unfettered access to the UK to its many insurance companies post-2021. One in five cars in the UK is insured by a Gibraltar company, such is the importance of this particular facet of financial services business to Gibraltar. Gibraltar’s Fintech story is one of dynamism and informed understanding, leading to the creation of the first regulatory environment for the delivery of financial services on distributed ledger technology.

Gibraltar is the base for the best that the international online gaming/gambling industry has to offer; well-regulated, protecting players and ensuring our operators are operating to the best standards. Gibraltar pioneered regulation for this sector and continues to be the leader in this field, offering a prestigious centre for online gaming and gambling business.

Port services make up the last of the four main areas of economic activity in Gibraltar. Gibraltar’s strategic location, modern port facilities and legal system based on English Common Law are just some of the reasons why it is one of the key locations for ship arrest in the Mediterranean. Gibraltar also offers a desirable Red Ensign registry, outside VAT (subject potentially to a review in the context of ongoing negotiations relating to Schengen and Gibraltar under the umbrella of post-Brexit arrangements), in which to register and finance vessels.

Tax 

The key headlines for tax in Gibraltar are that corporate tax is levied at a flat rate of 10%, personal income tax is charged at an effective rate of 25% on the first £50,000 of income and that Gibraltar does not levy any capital gains tax, inheritance tax or tax on passive income. We also have specific programmes designed to meet the needs of high-net-worth individuals and their families, as well as high executives possessing specialist skills (HEPSS). Add to that the wide range of structuring options available in Gibraltar, and Gibraltar represents an attractive proposition in tax to bolster the many other appealing features of moving to and living in Gibraltar.

The Gibraltar Parliament 

The Gibraltar Parliament is a 17-member parliament and the legislature for Gibraltar, with the Government of Gibraltar acting as the executive, and the judiciary the third distinct and separate component of our democracy. Elections to the Gibraltar Parliament occur roughly every four years.

The current Chief Minister of Gibraltar is the Hon Fabian Picardo QC, MP, who has led the GSLP Liberal Government since its original election in December 2011. The latest election was held on 17 October 2019.

Brexit 

Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU on 23 June 2016. On 31 January 2020 Gibraltar left the EU and entered the implementation period of the Withdrawal Agreement reached by the EU and UK in 2019. The European Union had conceded that the terms of any subsequent agreement on the future relationship between the EU and the UK would not apply to Gibraltar without Spain’s approval. This was, in effect, a restatement of the veto all member states enjoy in the context of trade deals made by the EU.

On 24 December 2020, the UK and EU announced that a trade agreement had been reached that managed to bridge both parties’ positions on key issues of fishing quotas, level playing field and dynamic alignment on matters of climate change, employment rights and others. Negotiations between the UK and Spain in relation to Gibraltar then concluded a few days later.

On 31 December 2020, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister announced that a framework for an agreement between the United Kingdom and Spain had been reached in relation to Gibraltar.

The fundamental features of the agreement included the mutually agreed ‘parking’ of the historical positions relating to sovereignty over Gibraltar, opening the door for Gibraltar to become part of the Schengen Acquis, with Spain as the responsible member state/interlocutor for Gibraltar.

The framework agreement paves the way for a further six months of negotiations during which it is expected that the practical elements of the deal’s implementation will be agreed. The extension of the Schengen area to Gibraltar is expected to protect, and even improve, fluidity across the border between Gibraltar and Spain. Further negotiations continue on the issue of goods.

On financial services, the preponderance of financial services activity conducted from Gibraltar was UK facing and, in the context of the UK Financial Services Bill 2020, direct access to the UK for Gibraltar companies is guaranteed. Further opportunities may yet arise in relation to a potentially differentiated solution currently being actively negotiated.

Gibraltar Companies 

Gibraltar offers a full range of modern and relevant solutions for the establishment of a business entity, ranging from companies to partnerships of various different kinds, as well as the protected cell company – a vehicle used widely by insurance companies and private clients alike.

Business Licensing 

The Office of Fair Trading was established in Gibraltar on 7 October 2015 by means of the Fair Trading Act 2015. Under the this Act, any business wishing to either trade or provide a service in Gibraltar must hold a business licence issued by the Business Licensing Authority.

Education 

Education in Gibraltar is largely state provided but there are also a growing number of private nurseries and schools. The availability of choice in education is one of the key requirements of both entrepreneurs and executives relocating to Gibraltar, and Gibraltar now offers just that. The public sector schools have seen huge investment in infrastructure which is expected to continue as additional new schools are built.

Health Services 

The Gibraltar Health Authority is the core of healthcare in Gibraltar, offering free and extensive healthcare to registered users. The Gibraltar Health Authority (GHA) was set up under the Medical (Gibraltar Health Authority) Act 1987 and its purpose is to provide healthcare in Gibraltar, which is home to just over 30,000 residents. Gibraltar enjoys similar healthcare, and standards of healthcare provision, to most Western European countries. The GHA operates a Group Practice Medical Scheme, which is a contributory scheme and enables registered persons to access free medical treatment.

Immigration 

British Nationals are able to come to Gibraltar to live and work subject to complying with certain administrative requirements. As a centre for leading international businesses in gaming, insurance and other financial services fields, Gibraltar welcomes citizens from around the globe by means of work permits issued by the Department of Employment.

Housing 

Gibraltar has a buoyant residential and commercial real estate market with a variety of predominantly apartment-based properties available for purchase or rent. Prices in Gibraltar are significantly higher than across the border in Spain and it is for that reason that many employees choose to live in Spain while working in Gibraltar. The key issue to bear in mind in that context is the tax treatment for income arising from work in Gibraltar in respect of those deemed tax resident in Spain.

Currency 

The official currency in Gibraltar is the Gibraltar Pound.